As a former high school English and social studies teacher who is transitioning to becoming a middle grades math teacher, I read this article with interest. I skimmed the workbook with interest as well. While the framework of antiracism that the workbook espouses is both pointless and insidious, many of the pedagogical moves that it encourages are good practices.

Centering math education on cognitively demanding engaging tasks, sense making, authentic collaborative problem solving, and multiple ways of approaching a problem is not tantamount to a lack of precision or rigor. Quite the opposite. In a classroom where these practices flourish, students constantly have to defend and justify their reasoning rather than regurgitating algorithmic procedures or aping the teacher. Students learn that the logic of the underling math is the ultimate authority. They can't fake it. They have to engage in real productive struggle with difficult problems. There's nothing wishy washy about it any of this, at least when done well.

A final point of emphasis is that teaching math in this way really doesn't have anything to do with a racist or antiracist approach. The workbook seems to be heavily informed by this document:


which conflate a long list of what I think are largely unhelpful cultural norms that permeate lots of organizations (including schools) with white supremacy culture (whatever that is).

It is possible, and I would even say desirable, to draw wisdom and inspiration from critiques of common cultural norms such as these, without believing that they are manifestations of white supremacy. Of course, not everybody will agree on what is wise, in these critiques, but to throw out all of the baby with the bathwater is a mistake.

Those who have more interest in what the way of teaching math I describe entails can check out Peter Liljedahl's book Building Thinking Classrooms and Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions by Margaret Smith and Mary K. Stein. Other excellent practices in this vein include number talks and open middle problems.

Expand full comment

This has to be a scam perpetrated by White Supremacists for the purpose of keeping Black people down and voting Democrat forever. No, what a minute, that was LBJ’s line.

I don’t understand how one sentient person, black, white or lime green can sign onto this atrocity.

Keep at it, Dr. McWhorter; there is a pressing need.

Expand full comment

Communism also had "good practices" (free education, free medical care etc.), not to mention facism (oh, those freeways that Hitler built). But the horrible, cruel, inhuman ideology trumped them anyway. The same with anti-racist math education.

Expand full comment

The people proposing this nonsense can feel morally superior for having proved they are antiracist, all the while being free from suffering the consequences. There are already too many black children in this country who have been and are being poorly educated. In the Bronx where I was born and raised the numbers of black high school graduates who are functionally illiterate is horrifying. I have a cousin who was socially promoted through elementary and middle school, and no one noticed until he got to the 9th grade he could barely read and do basic arithmetic. He's in his 30's now, with no HS diploma, could never past the GED, and cannot hold a job. I could write a 500 page novel about all the people of my generation and our children's generation from my old neighborhood like this.

These kids are leaving school without basic math and English skills and with no other marketable skills. They cannot handle college level work without extensive remedial classes, and they are only employable in low skill or unskilled jobs, which pay low wages and have few if any opportunities for advancement. Now these social justice warriors have decided to turn low expectations and certain failure into a real curriculum. And when these kids finish school and cannot compete in the real world, they will continue blaming racism and white supremacy. The work force is already fiercely competitive. Who is going to hire workers who have not mastered basic concepts? What bank is going to give business loans to entrepreneurs who can't calculate potential profits and loses to demonstrate the value of their endeavor?

Expand full comment

I have begun to wonder whether this is the reason why, when the socially promoted become professors, they don't teach the subjects they are ostensibly prepared to teach, but just yammer on and on about "racism." One Classics personality apparently spends his time yelling about how few Black scholars are published in the Classics, rather than writing the essays that would increase their numbers.

Expand full comment

Instead of having "answers" on a math test, they should just call them "impressions," and if you got a different "impression," so what, can't we all be brothers? - Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts (1992)

Expand full comment

I just listened to your podcast with Glenn L, in which you talked about "anti-racist math." You asked a question that I'd like to take a stab at, namely, what institutions have been infiltrated by the violent right wing?

I was thinking about an episode of Democracy Now from August 2017, right after Charlottesville, with Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist. It's worth listening to the whole episode, but here's a bit of the transcript:

"The FBI published a report recently that showed that there is a massive amount of [white supremacist] recruiting happening within the military and within law enforcement. And, in fact, it was a concerted strategy of ours 30 years ago, when I was involved in the movement, when we recognized that the shaved heads and the swastika flags and the Klan hoods were turning away the average American white racist that we could recruit, but they were too afraid to join because, you know, of how edgy we were. So we decided at that point, 30 years ago, that we were not going to shave our heads. We were going to trade in our boots for suits. We were going to go enroll in college and recruit on campuses. We would get jobs in law enforcement, go into the military to get training and to be able to recruit there, and then even run for office. And here we are 30 years later with that dream—or that nightmare—realized. Now, you know, they’re wearing polos and khakis, and they blend in. They look like our doctors, our mechanics, our teachers, our nurses. And it’s hard to distinguish them, aside from the words that they say and the actions that they take, which oftentimes, in public, when they’re alone, they won’t do."

Expand full comment

I wish Mr. Piccolini cited some specific people or instances of this. I know he was a National leader and recruiter for this underground movement of white supremacy, but the lack of hard statistics or analysis showing who these people actually are and how many of them there are makes me take his accusations and comments with a grain of salt (albeit I have listened to him and found him quite compelling to listen to). It amounts to hearsay or a good story, but not really a counter to Dr. McWhorter’s argument that the teachings of the far left are entering mandatory curriculum in K-12 education, whereas yes white supremacists are possibly holding positions of power, and yes I’m sure they have some guiding principles to oppressing all non-whites whenever their position of power allows them to, but are there policies being written to overtly subject our society to white supremacist ideology? I believe several tenuous dots would have to be connected to make that argument, whereas this article needs only two dots.

Expand full comment

It's a tired argument, to be sure. But I'll toss it like a ten mile an hour pitch, anyway. Perhaps it even startles the batter enough for a strikeout. A simple question to begin. If white supremacy is a thing, why does it focus on one particular and specific non-whiteness to such a degree? Why do so many non-whites who do not fit that particular identity of non-whiteness, thrive in our society? And why do so many of these particular non-white identities thrive to such a degree as to add up to serious enough numbers as to suggest that some time in the future they will displace whites altogether? And if this be so, why is there no alarm bell sounded about it? Could it be that we live in hard times indeed, for any particular skin color to claim a supreme identity?

Expand full comment

The question was what institutions, if any, are being infiltrated by white supremacists. Picollini makes the argument, based on his own experience, that law enforcement, the military, etc., have in fact been intentionally infiltrated by white supremacists.

And yes, I share your desire for hard statistics and analysis...and that is the role of government and think tanks, who I hope will step up to the job in the coming years.

As for "policies being written to overtly subject our society to white supremacist ideology"--well, if you look at the Republican initiatives in 43 states to restrict voting, you can make a good case, that these laws are designed intentionally to suppress minority voting, which amounts to de facto white supremacist policy.

At the same time it's true, I think, that the far-left anti-racism curricula of schools and colleges are a form of attempted indoctrination that's inadvertently toxic--and likely counterproductive to the kind of change we need to realize a genuinely level playing field. One thing that I find painfully sad about this kind of "teaching" is that it has the potential to inhibit the organic formation of friendships among young people by putting up barriers based on skin color, instead of giving everyone access to a great education and letting them all find their interests and relationships and shared passions based on who their internal proclivities. When friendships form naturally across racial groups, then you transcend the mutual suspicion that characterizes both racist and anti-racist ideologies at this point in history. Which is really weird and sad.

Expand full comment

One would almost think that the people most powerful and indeed, capable of owning the fullest and most complete responsibility for altering just about any truly useful liberal knowledge-based education, and providing such a metamorphosis as what is now happening in institutions where children show up to actually learn how to learn, and so add exponentially and considerably to the usefulness of their brains - that a truly astonishing purposefulness gradually becomes apparent:

It is not the pleasure or the purpose of the educational designers to actually promote educated children. They are far too useful as failures. As those stats become padded, the sheer numbers add up to outrage, no doubt. But far too few are truly outraged for the right reasons, I think. The Progressive doth protest entirely too much for almost all the wrong reasons.

Personally, harkening back to a much younger time in my history on this planet, the gift of literacy was a pair of angel wings that flew me to freedom. No child should be without them. There never was a good reason to think otherwise.

Expand full comment

I 100% agree with you. I overlooked the wording “infiltration” or at least wasn’t carefully expressing myself. Voter suppression-aimed legislation is also something I’d being interested in reading. Thanks for getting me think more deeply about.

Expand full comment

These secret cells sure have failed at whatever it was they were trying to do. The institutions are Progressive for as far as the eye can see.

Expand full comment

You mean like these progressive cops who beat a black man who was lying face down on the ground?


Expand full comment

Individuals are not institutions, and certainly not those individuals at street level.

Expand full comment

? Individuals compose institutions. When police departments are full of racist individuals they function as racist institutions. Of course it's possible that the Louisiana cops story was a rare and unusual example in a history of otherwise exemplary, fair, and just treatment of black citizens by white police in Louisiana.

Expand full comment

BTW where is the evidence that white supremacists are now wearing polo shirts and khakis and are now our doctors, lawyers, nurses and teachers. Such a statement demands observable data not just an unproven allegation.

Expand full comment

It seems to me that even the FBI report fails to provide evidence that any major elite decision making institution has been captured by white supremacist. In fact the best available evidence indicates a waning influence of white supremacy except from politically motivated fear mongers on the Left. While one could point to greater acceptance of organizations, like the KKK 50 years ago, it is more challenging to document that they had systemic control over any institution. It is also important not to confuse local practices with national institutional control. For sure, one important strengths and weaknesses of our system is that it gives preferences to decentralized versus centralized decision making. This decentralized approach can give rise to decisions and policies that best reflect the needs and context of local people who are closest to the issues. However it can also lead to some terrible abuses—local political corruption and the suppression of disfavored groups rights. An example of localized institutional abuse was Jim Crow centered almost exclusively in the the old confederacy states of the south. Most Americans, including blacks only saw the institutional manifestation of Jim Crow and legal support for these manifestations when they were in the South. The legal framework for Jim Crow was overturned over 50 years ago with the passage of the civil rights act. Did there continue to be dead-Enders, of course, but they were wedded to a losing cause. Indeed the example you provide could just as accurately be interpreted as the continuing loss of influence of white supremacist Dead-Enders.

Given this interpretation of the historical backdrop, the narrative for the rise of white supremacy seems to be driven almost exclusively by the elite opinion makers in our country’s media, corporate, cultural and political institutions. The loaded charge of widespread white supremacy and racism is leveled at anyone not in concordance with these elite’s current agenda. I am not suggesting conspiracy just that people who go to the same schools, and belong to the same social and economic class share similar ideologies, agendas and goals. The allegation of a major white supremacist threat is almost entirely evidence free and is only sustainable by accusing anyone and everyone who hold center-right preferences as being racist and whites supremacist.

Expand full comment

Well, I think the work of Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist, is worth examining. I'd like to see investigations of police departments where there's a suspected white supremacist presence. I don't think they went away with the CRA and the VRA, and if you listen to Christian P they got more strategic.

Someone just left a Proud Boys picture--a man with a swastika with the words "Proud Boy's" [sic] written across the top in marker--at my house. Was it for me? What was the message? NM doesn't have much white supremacist activity, but there's a lot on Colorado, Texas, and Arizona. I wouldn't assume out of hand that they are not in positions of power in all those states, whether it be in law enforcement or other positions.

Don't get me wrong, I love John and Glenn's work and share their basic perspective on the absurdity of a lot of wokeist culture...and this math thing is insane. And I also see the importance of following former white supremacists, who understand the workings and psychology of those people better than I ever will.

Expand full comment

You also made the assertion that the killing of Emmett Till wasn't done by members of an institution, but rather some guys. That made me wonder how to think about the KKK and the thoroughly Jim Crow government institutions of that pre-civil rights era...didn't Till's murder happen in a context of law enforcement and a judiciary where the killers knew they were above the law? So in that sense were they not part of a violent racist set of institutions?

Expand full comment

I think you may be confusing institution with the fact that some people organize to do bad things. Most street gangs and criminal syndicates are organizations. However, I don’t think it would be proper to call these criminal enterprises social institutions.

Expand full comment

Would you call law enforcement and the judicial system in 1955 Mississippi social institutions? That's what I was trying to say--Till's murderers were operating in a social context where they knew very well that the institutions designed to enforce the law would not do so and that they'd have impunity. So whether or not they were in the KKK, they were part of a white supremacist set of government institutions.

Expand full comment

It is absolutely true that in 1955, and I’m old enough to have experienced this first hand, that many major institutions designed and operated to support and continue Jim Crow in the states of the old Confederacy. However, it is important to be careful not to conflate the influence of local institutions (the courts and law enforcement in the state of Mississippi) with national institutions. Besides to say that abuses that occurred almost 70 years ago under a legal framework that was abolished over 50 years ago hardly seems to be compelling evidence that there is widespread white supremacist influence in our major social, political, corporate, communications and cultural institutions. Indeed, as the story you present about the former racist and the comment about the Proud Boys (which I’m not sure I understand, and by the way the PBs maybe loathsome for any number of reasons, but they are not white supremacist) demonstrates that these Dead-Enders, if they ever had it, have lost and continue to lose any practical influence over the American people. If you’re point is that even now there maybe individuals or small groups of individuals that hold base views about race—and by the way, these folks are not always white, look at the racist anti Semitic comments consistently made by the leader of the NOI or even certain Democratic members of the U.S. House—I agree. But the fact that there are people who hold racist views of others should be no surprise and is true and found almost anywhere in the world including, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. None of this supports the allegation that white supremacy is a major influencer in US either elite or even local institutions.

Expand full comment

My assessment Is that the math is racist movement is one more example of how blacks (and their white progressive allies) have internalized the belief that Black Americans (most Africans would see this as ridiculous) and Latinos are simply inferior to whites. As such, blacks and (Latinos) can never really compete with superior white Europeans. Having internalized racial inferiority blacks and their allies must overthrow the game. They want to kick the table over and complain the game is not fair so let’s play a game where I don’t have to compete and win to feel good about myself. One could argue this is an exercise in collective self esteem building. Oh it is not that you have failed to understand but that you are being asked to perform tasks that are contrary to your essential nature—as such this is unfair in fact it is racist to require me to countermand my basic nature to participate in the game as devised. The solution Cultural Revolution.

The irony is that the white elite allies that support these notions of internalized inferiority have the power to dole out benefits without disturbing their existing privileges. As such they can and do reward these proponents of internalized black inferiority by giving them paid platforms to expound on their embrace of the idea that blacks can’t do math because black essential nature is different and better than whites—this essential nature does not include logic, analysis, merit performance, and seeking the right answers. This emphasis on the idea that say math, or other subjects are racist also obviates the responsibility of the elites who run all our major institutions, but especially those in or associated with education, to answer why do they consistently fail to teach black and Latino children to perform as well as their white peers? There were no failures, blacks simply are not equipped to learn Euro-centric math, science, language arts, etc. Blacks will perform well when we only ask them to perform black (or BIPOC) centric mathematics. This of course will have a cascade effect—there will be fewer top performing black doctors, engineers, scientists and mathematicians. This disparity will be addressed by the CRT advocates by asking for preferences and quotas that are aimed at creating equity between the races—I.e.something that resembles equal outcomes based on population shares.

Expand full comment

Im afraid that too many commenters are missing the point of this god-forsaken document. It's indiousness lies in the way they sprinkle things we would all agree with to push their all-things-white-people-do-is-bad. The real-world math sections comes to mind. But thats not to the point. The point is to push their ideology of collectivism, anti-individualism, capitalism is white supremacy bull shit. This whole document needs to be tossed out. Its creators shun. For what will really be applied is not these teaching techniques that we all can agree are just good ideas. But, their ethnomath, mathematx. They will require you to do a PHD on ethnic specific "maths" from obscured places around the world. Have fun creating your lesson plans on thinking about how to include Black, Latinx, and Multilingual students into your 5th grade math classes.

Expand full comment


Expand full comment

The document is also a bit, well, white-centered itself. Teach how the Yoruba people used base 20? the implication being that base 10 is somehow a white-man thing? They're called "Arabic numerals" for a reason, folks.

Some of the methods in the document are at least plausibly good ideas - and others have said here that they have been tested.

The connection to white supremacy in this document is expressed by a repeating "White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when..." title which is followed by, well, *everything*.

And if you equate "white supremacy" with "racism" - which makes sense to me - then, yes - quite everything is racist.

This every-normal-thing-in-the-classroom-is-white-supermacy attitude, I can't imagine teaching anything like this.

Expand full comment

I agree with your argument, but Arabic numerals and base 20 or base 10 are two separate things. By the way, Basques also had arithmetic with base 20.

Expand full comment

"They're called "Arabic numerals" for a reason, folks." ... lol good catch :)

Expand full comment

I think the larger problem with that document and with Professor McWhorter's response is that they both frame the debate around pedagogy. I know others have written similar comments below, so I'll repeat briefly that the teaching strategies in that document aren't actually bad. They just have nothing to do with anti-racism. That document is actually full of tried and tested teaching methods; most teaching methods are. If we really want to boost math achievement, we should focus on lowering class sizes and getting better resources into classrooms. I'd love to do more projects, and spend more one-on-one time with my students, and write fun new word problems, and get rid of multiple choice tests... but that isn't going to happen with 35 students per class and a poor selection of resources.

I know Professor McWhorter is on a mission to debunk bad logic posing as anti-racism, and he does a great job of that. But as a high school math teacher, I get defensive when debates about education are framed around just what the teacher should do differently.

Expand full comment

A real breath of fresh air. Proper resources needed to do a tough job.

Let us suppose that if we added up every single dollar spent on one particular thing, and that thing being a thing that soaks up god knows just how many tens of billions across this land. A thing we refer to as "training" (re-education?) about bias, unconscious or otherwise, or perhaps slightly bad habits, or just whatever sticks to a color of skin. CRT by any other name would still never really rival a rose, but no matter.

Instead, we take all those billions (and we take them away from the trainers, indoctrinators and the snake oil sales persons, the shakers and the fakers and the entrepreneurial wagon jumpers and jargon thumpers -

And we put every one of those dollars into nationwide programs designed to do a simple thing, really. Teach the kids who would otherwise slog through their apparent birthright to fail - to succeed, instead. At math, reading, writing, and whatever else of a liberal education as would be the result. Impossible, many would say. I say I don't believe it's impossible at all.

Far too many adults in the room have been trained to believe it can't be done. So don't give them the money. Give it to the ones who believe it can be done.

Expand full comment

This is the entire problem. They promote their insidious ideology by couching it in "true and tried teaching methods" so as to win over people like you. Pointing out that this document has SOME good things is irrelevant. The main point of this document is not to pursue these tried and true teaching methods, but to push for their "ethonmath" and "mathematix" pontifications. So which specific math content will you choose to write your dissertation on? Maya centered math? oh wait, its very likely that you'll have more than one ethnic group in your class. Better gear up to be math specific to all those different groups. We dont want to perpetuate white supremacy, dont we?

Expand full comment

Their primary goal, so easily achieved, is to present "White Supremacy" as both omnipresent and uniquely evil, and as an amorphous something to be defined by themselves. If you're reading the document to see what it actually says about math instruction, they've succeeded in getting you to absorb these unexamined assertions about "White Supremacy". Note that later in the document there is an ongoing program of "exercises" to be completed by every math teacher, that have nothing to do with math, and everything to do with enforcing total acceptance of *their* definitions of racism, whiteness, etc.

It's really nice of people to say (as many do below) "Well, let's just walk past the ugly pandering and racism in the document and see if there's pedagogy that will help the children.". This shows a real generosity of political spirit which, if history is anything to go by, will earn us less "math-competent underprivileged children" and more "Rach-and-hatred-based version of China's Cultural Revolution".

Not worth it, just to "play nice with the wokesters". They don't want to play nice with you.

Expand full comment

Yeah I get the Cultural Revolution bit. There was a decade in China's history where it was a wonder that anyone got any kind of an education at all.

But to further the cause:

I love to throw hypothetical numbers around, just for the effect. Just to see what happens when a match kisses a fuse.

Let us suppose that there are right now, approximately some number of persons on our dear little planet who do not happen to have white skin at all, but who possess a good working knowledge of things mathematical. Let us narrow this down to those persons having successfully completed a higher education. Let us imagine that this number of (non-white) persons is somewhere in the neighborhood of several hundreds of millions (somewhere between the population of the United States, and Continental Europe. I have absolutely no idea if this number is gaged to high or too low, but no matter.

It is still an awful lot of people who have grappled with and grasped mathematics by the horns and won the battle. In spite of the nature of the beast, which is apparently supreme and white and toxic to a student of color. Or so the story goes.

It would appear then that this most supreme oppressor is either absolutely and dismally failed at dominating a population on the planet that adds up to a number greater than the total of all white persons now living - or that it is instead acutely selective toward one identity group only,

Sizzle, boom.

Expand full comment

"race", not "rach". Grrr....

Expand full comment

While higher level and abstract concepts within math and science as disciplines evolve over time (ie. post grad), the basics don't. Side-stepping/excusing/obfuscating the need for the mastery of these basic concepts (and indeed the universal language of math); is essentially the same as statements similar to being injected bleach will cure COVID. There are some things that are just true, period. Assaults on math and science, under the guise of "social justice" does absolutely nothing to address inequities in education. In addition, it is also "paternalistic" (and that is not the term I would use personally) in assuming kids are not smart enough to learn these concepts because they are intellectually fragile. This is all anathema to any society that is comprised of people who can actually think, have conversations, critically think and have reasonable debates. Understanding the "basics" of anything is the foundation of that agreed upon social compact. So, whats next? Learning to drive isn't subject to interpretation, neither is cooking food, or following generally accepted social mores.

Expand full comment

I skimmed over the guide and I actually think some of the pedagogical ideas make sense to a degree. Focusing solely on one right answer can make math boring. E.g. "what is the area of this rectangle?" is a pretty simple and boring question, but we could make it more interesting by asking other things, like "how would you shape this rectangle if you want to maximize the perimeter? What if you want to maximize the area instead?" Now you have to think a little bit and you're not just repeating a dull procedure. So I can see how certain changes like this could get more kids interested in math and make the material more meaningful, and this could in principle be done without dumbing down the curriculum. It's not clear how this is related to racism, though.

Expand full comment

Mastering the boring stuff lays the foundation for being able to do the interesting stuff. Yes, a good teacher can make learning the math tables fun. As I recall, we did it as a competition; which may not be allowed anymore.

Expand full comment

In order to think mathematically, you have learn to think mathematically. Every set of principles which has to be learned by constant repetition is boring. There is no learning without boredom, because in order to ask exciting questions you have to master the boring stuff, so it doesn't confuse you all the time and your brain has free resources it can throw on the interesting problem.

In Europe every year another great idea arises how to attract weak learners to Math or other subjects by trying to make things not boring. If you can't handle the boring stuff, you won't learn anything. The interesting questions only arise when the principles are memorized and constantly repeated. Only repetition establishes competence to have fun in the interesting questions.

The delusion that "focusing on the right answer" is somehow bad (e.g. "white") comes from people who hate civilization. The weak learners can only be better learners if they are exposed to long and boring lessons of repetitive knowledge. No one who thinks that Math is "white" will ever be able to master it. "white" is a derogatory term. People who think of Math in derogatory terms will not learn it. People who do not repeat the simple lessons will have no interest in asking exciting questions.

Expand full comment

I agree that there are times when you just have to memorize things so that you have them ready to go. Still, one could argue that this kind of work is overemphasized and that we could get by just as well with less of it. E.g. do students really need to learn how to do long division on paper? When everyone has a calculator on their phone, it's questionable whether this is still worthwhile.

One thing I find interesting is that this math instruction guide actually echoes some criticisms of math instruction that the physicist Richard Feynman made back in the 60s. I think I read about them in his book Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, which unfortunately I don't have anymore, but the ideas are summarized here: https://fs.blog/2016/07/richard-feynman-teaching-math-kids/

Here's a quote from the instruction guide: "The point should be to have a dialogue about

their process and their learning, not require every student to follow the exact same path to the right answer."

A quote from the Feynman article (I think this is in turn quoting from another book): "Feynman proposed that first-graders learn to add and subtract more or less the way he worked out complicated integrals— free to select any method that seems suitable for the problem at hand."

One other thing to note is that the guide is not trying to argue that wrong answers are acceptable; it just recommends choosing problems that have more than one right answer.

I find myself in a strange position defending this guide, but I do have a sense that it is being written off too quickly. It certainly has a layer of incoherent Elect speech sprinkled throughout, but I think there are at least a few reasonable ideas underneath.

Expand full comment

The problem with the guide isn't that *everything* in it is bad, it is that it is a trojan horse with the primary intent to indoctrinate students in the doctrine of the Awoken. The fact that some of its ideas are not awful, and some are even good is irrelevant to whether the guide as a whole should be used. None of the good ideas are probably new; the only stuff that is novel is the ideology that is irrelevant to the learning of mathematics.

Its a common tactic for many religious groups -- to use the pretext of teaching one thing or providing some service with the primary goal of spreading their religion. It is the common tactic of authoritarian regimes as well. For example, when Castro created programs to teach Cubans to read, his primary goal was to make good Communists out of them, not to make them good readers.

The same applies to this propaganda; its primary purpose is not to teach Mathematics, it is indoctrinate the students and teachers with the ideology of the Church of the Awoken.

If people want to teach this material they can do it at a private religious school, not in a public government school. It is a violation of the first amendment.

Expand full comment

"do students really need to learn how to do long division on paper?"

Yes, they do. The subject is not "does it make me feel good?", but Math. So you have to do this.

"When everyone has a calculator on their phone, it's questionable whether this is still worthwhile."

The kids who use the calculator fail at every simple test later to do a division with higher numbers on paper, when they have to.

It is not a waste of time to do that, because it trains your brain. Doing simple algebra has valuable impacts on your future. The reason to have an education is to be more resilient against bullshit. If I can do simple algebra I can do a lot more things. I can do calculations in my head in order to verify a claim, where my money is one the line. I can faster detect errors and can do something about it. I am generally more aware of my environment. These are all very important abilities, which have to be learned by boring stuff. There is no way around doing the boring stuff. Get over it.

Simple Algebra has very clear answers and the problems are not very complicated. A division on paper is either right or wrong and there are not different answers. That's why we teach children this in school: because problems which have more than one answer are complicated and require skills children cannot possibly have.

The only alternative is not to teach children Math, reading or writing. And that's I hope is not an option.

Expand full comment


I recall diving into long division, fractions and percentages sweet as an Olympic sized pool of Dr Pepper after I found out out this was the secret to unlocking the mysteries of baseball batting averages and earned run averages. It just took a little bit of inspiration.

Ah - but every single right answer (the kind of thing necessary to what we build, manufacture, and produce that actually needs to be reliable and trustworthy) flies in the face of protracted "subjective" truth, which never had a damned bit of usefulness for anything that any and all nationals on earth could derive the actual story from a blueprint of universal information.

Fools can spit and hiss at math and roundly enjoy themselves. Before they turn and turn again to enjoy their rightful place in a life chock full of a star's chart full of comforts, every single one built from a mathematical foundation.

Expand full comment

No one's arguing that everyone should use calculators for even the simplest arithmetic. You have to draw a line somewhere and say there are certain calculations students should be able to do on paper and then beyond a certain level of difficulty you switch to using a calculator. If we wanted to, we could teach students to compute the square root of 2 up to N digits on paper, but I suspect few people would argue for going that far. You may be right that long division is simple enough to justify learning how to do on paper, but it's not completely crazy to take the other side of that argument.

It's easy to point and laugh at this math instruction guide because it contains so much outlandish language about white supremacy in the classroom, but I just think the truth is more complicated than that. If it's saying some of the same things that the legendary physicist Richard Feynman used to say, that should give us pause.

For example, let's say a problem asks you to compute 97 * 3. I think some math teachers will insist that you do it one particular way, which is basically to do 3 * 7 + 3 * 90 = 21 + 270 = 291, and if you don't show your work this way then you don't get credit. To me the more natural way to solve this problem is to think 97 is almost 100, so 97 * 3 should be almost 300. I just need to subtract out three 3's or 9, so 300 - 9 gives me 291. This is a perfectly valid approach and gets the right answer. The guide is saying that this kind of approach should be accepted and teachers shouldn't insist on just one approach.

Expand full comment

Teach both but teach the rigorous way first. Not all problems are easily estimated.

Expand full comment

The problem you miss here is that the problem is not the approach how to solve a multiplication in order to get the right answer, but that the kids who are subjected to the program will not learn how to solve a problem.

Behind the alternative approach still the effort to do boring repetitive exercise awaits. Teachers may or may not support different approaches, but they all welcome correct answers. In order to deliver correct answer, learning Math including the simple arithmetic pieces require to learn how to calculate. Boring stuff, repetitive and brain sports.

Many people who feel they have to lose weight are either doing the boring and exhausting stuff or they don't, most of the time because they find compliact3ed excuses for not doing it. This is the same thing, In order to get in shape you have to start doing boring and exhausting stuff that is repetitive and requires a lot of effort, which one has or hasn't. It not, nothing will happen to bring about a better shape.

Same goes for Math or any ambitious subject. If you do not the boring stuff, there will be no different approach or any approach at all.

Expand full comment

Practicing math as a kid was like practicing a slapshot. Or a throw from third base to first. Over and over again. All three of these things improved through grade school. The more they improved, the more interesting were the results. (Only one of the three demanded perfection, though).

Expand full comment

Your comments here are so refreshing. The idea that good instruction is fun (or "entertaining" or "stimulating" or "play" or some variation of those) and bad teaching is boring has become so axiomatic that people can barely consider questioning it. Somehow allowing a child to experience frustration or boredom has become a step away from damaging abuse or maybe an actual instance of it.

In addition to the obvious benefit you call out above - which is that the child develops the intellectual capacity to actually solve a problem - the child also discovers his capacity to persist in an activity towards a goal in the absence of immediate gratification. That's not a bad description of adulthood. If you want to raise a child in an adult body then just spend a couple of decades "protecting" him from boredom, frustration or disappointment in any form.

Expand full comment

Why does it seem likely that the Teachers’ Union is behind this, to explain away the system’s failure to educate so many Black kids? Because the Union is all about “don’t check my work”

Expand full comment

Not sure what you mean by 'the union is all about don't check my work,' but I can assure you that teachers would not support a document like this, unionized or not. I am a unionized, high school math teacher, and the problem with the anti-racist math document is that it offloads all responsibility onto the teacher. It claims we just need to change our pedagogy to solve systemic racism. What about large class sizes? What about lack of resources? That document and Professor McWhorter's response to it are both distractions from the real problems in our schools.

Expand full comment

A bit like police interaction problems; “it’s all the cop’s fault.”

Expand full comment

I say that unions are all about “don’t check my work” because of their consistent resistance to any kind of objective performance measures such as standardized tests or parental accountability (ie choice). Massive increases in resources especially in urban school districts like Baltimore’s have had zero impact on systemic failure like this:

“Baltimore HS student fails all but 3 classes over 4 years, ranks near top half of class”


I get why Unions argue for smaller class sizes (more Union members) but more resources have typically just ended up paying for more administration and for paying the same people more money to perform in the same failed way. It’s NOT the teachers’ fault to be very clear, it’s a true systemic failure and the best example I know of, of systemic racism. This is not because the people in the system are necessarily racist, but because the worst school systems disproportionately impact Black children of the poverty that is a legacy of past racism.

Expand full comment

Well, I can't say I agree with anything you've just put forward. But this is also not the forum for me to defend unionized teachers. Thanks for replying.

Expand full comment

That was cool, Andrew. And rare, online.

That said, we have increased expenditure on education exponentially with ever-declining results. To contend more expenditure will resolve the issue is counter-intuitive...for which intuition I guess I cannot show my work.

You are probably right to say these failures cannot be laid on teachers, but certainly neither union, nor administration, nor legislatures have covered themselves with glory in addressing the issue.

Expand full comment

I admire your restraint. We agree that one way or another, all systems should be able to teach all kids math, no excuses!

Expand full comment

If anything requires either/or thinking it is arithmetic, which is the behavior of numbers in specific instances, rather then mathematics, which is the behavior of numbers in general. 5+3 will always equal 8, never different, but A+B=C can be used for many combinations of numbers. We learn the arithmetic so that we can later do math. Adding, subtracting, multiplication, division, fractions and decimals are all arithmetic, and one could argue that in the age of calculators and computers they are not as important as algebra or calculus. But I would return a calculator that told me 5+3=9. And I wouldn't drive over a bridge whose designing engineer thought 5+3=9.

My eight year old grandson, who can do arithmetic in his head, would love not to have to show his work.

Expand full comment

Great point. If one doesn’t understand the arithmetic, how will they know if the calculator returns a wrong answer? This is a major danger with all the great technology we have; the operators often have no ability to pick up on faulty results.

Expand full comment

Pretty cool concept. Not knowing when an answer is wrong (and what may come of that).

Suppose that someone snows a general population, and the only people who actually know that the information is incorrect, are those who aren't allowed to say so?

Expand full comment

"And in this country, religious propositions have no place in the public square."

I agree heartedly with the sentiments of this article, assuming that the "public square" refers to government funded activities or programs, which all "public" education is. I do think religious propositions have a place on public street corners, or even the quads of public universities, but I gather that is not what is meant by your statement given the rest of your article.

I wonder: how many people who see that the Church of the Awoken has made a religious perversion of race and that their conceptions have the logical coherency of the Trinity or Transubstantiation, also see that the Church has made a religious perversion of sex as well?

Is not the notion that a man can be a woman, or a woman a man, by simply saying so no less a fantastical creed? Mathematics is racist, they say; biology is sexist, they say as well. Are we to allow the state to force people to affirm a man is a she and a woman is a he, not because we may be kindly sympathetic to the wishes of others, or even convinced of the scientific argument, but because we fear punishment? When a biological male says he is a woman because he simply "feels like a woman", and a biological female says she is a man simply because she "feels like a man", these are professions of faith, not descriptions of an objective reality. Thus, for the state to require by law that citizens affirm such professions would be a violation of the letter and spirit of the first amendment. We may be so kind as to tolerate a person's faith, or even show voluntary respect, but we should not be forced to affirm it. Such mental enslavement has no place in America.

There are now some atheists and agnostics who scoff at the absurdity of the virgin birth but viciously attempt to destroy the livelihoods of people who do not believe that a man, by believing he is a woman, becomes a woman. They want to take America into NeverNever Land and they will destroy anyone who doesn't want to help bring it there. There are people who would be horrified if the state required citizens to affirm that Jesus is a god, but think it virtuous if the state were to require citizens to affirm that a man is a woman simply because a man declares it so, like Jehovah calling into being the Heavens. "And Adam saith, let me be a woman, and Adam becameth Eve, a woman."

Race is unfortunately not the only theological concern of the Church. I think transgender people should be judged by their character, and should receive the same protections under the law as black people or asian people. But did you all notice? People do not have the right to change their race at will. If you are white, and you inject yourself with black ink, you will not become black. And the Church of Awoken will not permit voluntary race-changing. On the other hand, some in the Church think, like Biden, that if a black person rejects the Democratic Party, aka the Party of Slavery, that they will become white. So race changing can occur, but only through actions they imbue with moral significance, as a sort of moral corruption. For example, some in the Church think black people and brown people became white if they voted for Trump.

Because seriously, what black person wouldn't vote for the Party of Slavery that never has acknowledged its history or restored the reparations they plundered from black people after the civil war? Why wouldn't we vote for a candidate that is an advocate and spiritual vessel of the Church of the Awoken? They think a black person must hate black people if we aren't a Democrat. The Democratic Party has been the party for black people ever since they put lots of black people in public housing and attacked the foundation of their families and then spearheaded laws that criminalized drugs that put black people disproportionately in jail for them. Nevermind the KKK, and the Black Laws, or the Civil War; the Democrats have changed. Now they love black people so much they want to change the nature of Mathematics for us so we can finally compete with asians who statistically dominate STEM with their embrace of White stuff like logic and studying. Black STEM will have no logic and certainly require no studying, just lived experience, and basketball, because black people can excel at that.

Expand full comment

Can we please stop with the implications that the two parties are fundamentally different, i.e. that either of them has a goal other than to advance the interests of those who compose them at the expense of those they claim to represent (i.e. their own supporters/constituents)?

Expand full comment

In response to Chris deleted comment, I generally like Jeff's commentary, and overall this was no exception. I do, however, take small issue with the "Party of Slavery" bit. While this is undeniably historically accurate, in the present context it nevertheless bears the inevitable implication (as I see it) that the GOP is untainted in this regard.

While the parties certainly have their differences, it's difficult to for me to countenance claims that one or the other is superior on the issue of "race", given that most of the legitimate issues here are really class issues, for which "race" is at best a (sometimes rather clumsy) proxy, and given that both parties seem hellbent on playing various demographics within the poor class against one another, while exclusively advancing the interests of the political class.

Moreover, as I see it, to reclaim anything resembling sensible government, both parties need to be abandoned/reconstituted. It seems to me that a necessary first step in this goal is to "detox" from our respective partisan identities, and to do that we need to dissociate issues from the parties which pretend to have taken up those mantles. Ideas should stand or fall on their own merits and whatnot.

This is why I generally prefer to avoid reference to either political party outright (when possible). I especially think this conservation would benefit from avoiding any semblance of partisan favoritism.

Expand full comment

I understand your dislike of partisan favoritism. I specifically refer to the Democratic Party as the Party of Slavery because it is the party that fought the civil war to keep slavery intact, and they continue to this day to gaslight the American public about their own history while simultaneously calling attention the the history of slavery and racism as a justification for their race hustling. The Republican Party, for all its faults, simply does not suffer from that particular fault, and it is an enormous fault given the saliency of race as a political wedge issue today. When the Democratic Party finally accepts responsibility for fighting a war for slavery, blacks laws, the kkk, and jim crow, and makes amends for it with the wealth that they acquired through it all, Ill stop calling it the Party of Slavery.

I grew up leaning toward the Democratic Party. I voted overwhelmingly for Democrats for most my adult life. I campaigned for Obama for 3 months in 2008 in Cincinnati, knocking on peoples' doors 8 hours a day. I voted for Hillary in 2016. And then I watched 4 years of irrational hysteria and hypocrisy encompass so many Democrats that by 2020, I was ready to vote for Trump--albeit I ultimately voted for Jo Jorgensen.

While you are correct that both parties have the goal to "advance the interests of those who compose them at the expense of those they claim to represent", the Democratic Party is quite unique on how forcefully it claims to represent *me* and to erase my voice if I claim it doesn't. Being biracial, bisexual, and non-religious, given the strong emphasis on the possession of those characteristics by the Democratic Party and the presumption that their ideology and policies support me, I find it imperative that I speak out against that presumption when I think their ideology and policies do not support me. While I could harp on the lunacy of the Christian theocratic faction of the Republican Party, or the phony free-market, small government, capitalism that they claim to support -- that stuff doesn't particularly relate to the dogmatic postmodern pseudo-marxist nonsense that is gradually engulfing the country. I see the country moving away from the social stances that the Christian theocratic wing of the Republican Party supports -- e.g. gay marriage is not going away.

Personally I'd be content to see both parties crumble, and along with electoral reform, such as ranked choice voting for all elected offices, to see new political organizations develop that actually more closely represent their constituents and aren't weighed down by a history of m. But until then, I think it is actually important that I do express my criticisms of the Democratic Party, particularly as it relates to any issues being discussed -- and in this particular issue their hypocrisy and deceit about their own history is essential for Democratic leaning people to acknowledge. They need to "Do the Work". Without that, I do not see how they will be able to detox from their respective partisan identities, if they are convinced that the other partisan identity is the devil and their own is angelic or even pardonable. An essential aspect of this country overcoming the racial political posturing will be a general understanding that the Democratic Party is in no moral position to take the posture as the Party of Minorities and Civil Rights, without some extraordinary redemptive acts, and that any Democrat who does support the Democratic Party should hold the party accountable for its past, and not just use its accumulated power and wealth for their own political ends.

How can reparations, for example, be discussed for black people without acknowledging the Democratic Party's primary role in the cause for the consideration of reparations? Yet the Democratic Party wishes to place the blame on all Americans? Anti-racists wish to talk about the Legacy of Slavery, and talk about "white fragility" --aka white people being afraid of talking about race; but that is all bullshit distraction from those who are actually fragile: Democrats, and their inability to come to terms with the responsibility the party they ally themselves with has for much of the "inequity" that currently exists for black people.

If the Democratic Party was Exon Mobile, and in the middle of the 19th century fought a war that killed 600000 people to maintain domination over a race of people, and then proceeded to oppress and terrorize those people for 100 years after they lost the war, I do not think people would be quick to forgive them of their debts, even 50 years later -- because the debts of such organizations do not dissolve because some of the demographics of their consumers shifts over time. The Democratic Party is okay with their constituents rioting, burning flags, and destroying symbols of their past -- and then taking no responsibility for that past. If the Democratic Party is to be "reconstituted," Democrats must stop scapegoating for it. Just from my historical political behavior, an outside observer, without any access to my thoughts, could infer that I am a Democrat, at least up until 2018. So, in some sense, I speak as a Democrat wanting to see the Democratic Party undergo legitimate reform, as much as I speak as someone who has no political party affiliation. I appreciate your preference for avoiding reference to either political party outright, but I think there should be exceptions and this is a topic where such an exception ought to apply.

There is a Donkey in the room that many people are not acknowledging.

Expand full comment

It seems as if the only way to get enough serious pushback to CRT nonsense is if more John McWhorters speak out. Not sure how many more - enough to get the MSM to stop being afraid of being labeled racist and show some courage when dealing with facts and ideas.

Expand full comment

No, it is for JuanPecan and TwelveSquared and all of the rest of us to diligently and bravely stand up and speak out after carefully considering the impact of not doing so on the future of our country. John McWhorter is a teacher. Learn. Do. That's what I get from his message more and more clearly.

Expand full comment

If only the MSM gave a meaningful opportunity for John WcWhorters to speak out. I do suspect that John would be declared a disseminator of misinformation and lies by the Ministry of Truth if his articles came across their desks for review. Given that the MSM is largely the PR wing of the Democratic Party, the only way such a change will come to the MSM is if more Democrats show some courage when dealing with facts and ideas.

They should begin by acknowledging their Legacy of Slavery and end their scapegoating with the Republican Party and America in general. I mean, if they wanted to be courageous with facts.

Expand full comment

I encourage everyone to download this document and read it. I printed all 82 pages. It is truly precious. It reads as if it were written by the staff at The Onion. I may have it bound.

Expand full comment